Phony debt collection in the matrimonial context ruse

The ruse

This is the phony debt collection in the context of a matrimonial matter. It may also arise in relation to a purported collaborative law agreement. 

Here is the description of the scam as first reported:

Although the specifics may change, a lawyer is contacted (usually by email) by a potential new client from a foreign jurisdiction to collect the balance of money owed by a former spouse in relation to settlement of a family law matter. The lawyer asks for information including court documents and says she will do a conflicts check. The lawyer then quickly receives a large cheque or bank draft in the name of the ex-spouse (either before or after issuing a demand for payment). The client contacts the lawyer again by email and says she understands that the lawyer received the money that she is owed and asks for her money. The financial instruments look real but are either well-made fakes or a cheque has been stolen and the signature forged.  If someone is pressuring you to pay out funds quickly, be cautious. 

Matrimonial debt collection, (Practice Watch, Benchers’ Bulletin, 2009 No. 4 Winter)

Twists and developments

Since first reported, we have seen new twists to the phony debt collection in the matrimonial context and other ruses as fraudsters try to trick lawyers.  Because the details of any particular ruse or scam may change and any variation in one may be used in another, lawyers will want to be familiar with all of these twists and developments, including those that relate specifically to the matrimonial context:


For a complete list of publications relating to the phony debt collection in the matrimonial context ruse, see Bad cheque scam publications.

Learn more about how to protect yourself from the bad cheque scam.



The ruses

The fraudsters generally use a particular ruse to trick lawyers. Here are the details of the different ruses reported by the Law Society:

Phony debt collection ruse (includes collecting on outstanding loans, commercial debts and settlement agreements)

Phony debt collection in the matrimonial context ruse

Phony business loan ruse

Phony real estate conveyance or fake mortgage ruse

Retainer overpayment and refund ruse